WASHINGTON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The U.S. government collects $11 billion in revenues a year on average from oil, gas and mining leases, money that goes into the public coffer and to Native American communities, according to the Office of Natural Resources Revenue.
To examine the track record of energy companies in paying royalties in the United States, Thomson Reuters Foundation looked at three sets of U.S. government data for the period 1998 through 2013:
- False Claims Act: settlements on lawsuits that alleged companies made false or fraudulent payments of royalties on oil and gas leases with the U.S. government and Native American tribes. Data was compiled from Department of Justice press releases.
Total settlements: $739.2 million, of which Shell paid $168 million and ExxonMobil $84 million
- Civil penalties: money companies paid to the Office of Natural Resources Revenue (ONRR) when it alleges they failed to comply with, or knowingly or wilfully violated applicable regulations or laws on royalties.
Total: $53.5 million
- Audits, checks and other compliance activities: additional funds paid after ONRR verified whether companies were paying the correct amounts based on the terms of the leases and contracts.
Total: $2.221 billion
- Grand total: $3.014 billion
* ONRR did not have data available broken down by company for the time period because its record systems changed in 2000 under its predecessor agency, the Mineral Management Service.
* These numbers do not include any penalties or underpayments on leases with state governments, or any private claims not captured by the False Claims Act suits handled by the Department of Justice, or cases for which the DOJ did not issue a press release.
(Research for this story was conducted by Alia Dharssi and Ashley Renders with the support of Sunlight Foundation and Transparency International.)